Selma Arts Center has a tall tale for you.
With the musical “Big Fish,” which opens Friday, the company tackles the stage adaptation of Tim Burton’s 2003 movie and Daniel Wallace’s celebrated novel. It’s a story about a father who has told extravagant tales about witches, giants and kissing mermaids over the years to his son. With his father’s health declining, the son is determined to find the truth behind the stories. Will he accept his father’s wild tales, or risk losing him forever?
The production, which played briefly on Broadway in 2013, is a challenge musically, emotionally and technically as it shifts between the present day and the past. The company plans an extensive use of projections to set the scenes for the various tales.
Because it’s a relatively unknown stage production, we asked co-directors Nicolette C. Andersen and Dominic Grijalva to help pick out five things you should know about the production. Here’s what they came up with:
1. “ Big Fish the Musical” is based on the film, which is based on the book. The musical version has moments that fans will recognize from both the film version and the novel. Specifically, lovers of the film will remember an important encounter at the circus and, of course, the iconic daffodil scene, both interpreted on stage in the musical. Most importantly, the send-off of the main character, Edward, is as moving and beautiful as it is in the film.
2. But you don’t have to know the film version to love the musical. For all its similarities with the movie and novel, this adaptation is also unique in a number of ways that won’t discourage people who are experiencing it for the first time. The storylines are beautifully intertwined in a way that is easy to follow and extremely relatable. If you’ve never seen the film or read the book, this would be an extraordinary way to encounter the story for the first time.
3. The show features a unique set as well as digital projections by co-director Grijalva. Because the production jumps between time and place – from present, to past, to fantasy – our design team knew we needed to work with pieces that would make those leaps possible for our actors and translatable for our audiences. The biggest challenge was in giving the audience the feeling of sitting near the water’s edge since the riverbank is a recurring setting to many important scenes. In order to do this, we built a deck that runs out into the center of the auditorium. It puts both the characters and the audience in the heart of the action. Couple this with digital projections that convey elements (like water, for example), and the result is a space where technology and imagination come together in a really whimsical way.
4. Some of the actors span 40 years in depicting their characters. For actors Tyler Jarrett (who plays Edward) and Lesley Ogle (Sandra), the biggest challenge might be playing characters that go from age 18 to age 60 in the span of one show. Aside from dramatic costume and makeup changes, the actors have to find ways to show their characters in youthful, middle age, and mature moments in their lives. More than simply vocal and body changes, the actors have really internalized what that might mean. Edward, for example, begins the show in a light and playful manner, but he must find a way to show the weight of his life experiences by the end of it.
5. This show is fun for the entire family. There is something for everyone in this program. Not only is the audience treated to fanciful tall tales, but the story itself takes us across time periods, through a USO show, takes us to a wedding, puts us in the middle of a circus, introduces us to witches, giants and mermaids, all while reflecting on the importance of family and especially the bond between fathers and sons.
- Opens 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4
- Selma Arts Center, 1935 High St., Selma
- www.selmaartscenter.com, 559-891-2238
- $19, $17 seniors, $14 children